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Feature - Fun at a premium

Insurance industry woes put the squeeze on adventure activities

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Although everything has worked out for the Cheakamus Challenge, Lamont questioned whether the province should have taken a larger role in mitigating insurance costs for adventure travel companies.

"Adventure tourism is a huge economic driver for this province," he said. "Now the government wants to double tourism here, but at the same time they’re not doing anything to help the tour operators that are getting hit with these huge increases."

In a throne speech last February, Premier Gordon Campbell announced that the province had committed to work with the tourism industry to double tourism revenues in the province by 2010. The industry is currently valued at more than $9 billion a year for B.C., plus billions more in indirect spending. It leads in jobs, both direct and indirect, and although the economic downturn is having an impact, it also leads in growth.

Tourism is currently B.C.’s number two industry to forestry, although energy (including fossil fuel extraction) is poised to take over, according to analysts.

To speed up this process, the province is fast-tracking through the backlog of applications for tenures to Crown land and water resources in B.C. While that backlog includes everything from resource extraction to commercial developments, applications by the travel and tourism industry make up a significant number of the total.

At last count, 49 of the 501 applications being processed by Land and Water B.C. are related to commercial recreation.

To help the tourism industry succeed, Lamont would like to see the government offer insurance to these companies through a Crown corporation, like ICBC.

"ICBC does a pretty good job for drivers in the province keeping the rates down, and they could do a good job for all the poor event organizers and companies out there that are getting slammed by insurance costs," he said.

"If they’re serious about increasing tourism, then they have to do something to keep the insurance costs low. They should underwrite recreation and tourism."

Cross Country Connections pushes safety

For Ian Goldstone and Chris Waller of Lost Lake Cross Country Connection insurance wasn’t an issue until this past year.

"Insurance rates seemed to be creeping up, even before 9/11. Afterwards, we’ve seen our rates go up 300 per cent," said Goldstone.